Updates to PDX.Vote’s schedule

Over the past six months, I’ve published a lot of information about elections in and around Portland. I’ve also kept some notes about what’s working and what isn’t.

Some initial statistics:

  • To date, just over 4,900 people have visited PDX.Vote.
  • The site has earned $420 from subscribers. Currently, monthly recurring revenue is $70.
  • So far in 2022, the site has published 84,016 words, with an average post length of 1,183 words.
  • I’ve published three articles from two writers, two of which are in the top 15 posts on the site in terms of traffic.
  • The individual day with the most traffic was Monday, February 21, 2022 — the day after the shooting at the Justice for Patrick Kimmons march at Normandale Park.
  • Top referrers to the site are Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

What’s working

Voter guide: The voting guide for the primary election is, by far, the most visited page on the website so far. While I didn’t keep metrics for the zine voters guides I’ve published in the past, I’m pretty confident that this voters guide reached more people, just because of the limitations in printing and distributing zines.

Publishing other people’s work: While it took me longer than I wanted to start publishing pieces from people other than myself, I’m thrilled with what we’ve been able to publish so far.

Providing context: From the discussions I’ve had both with Portland residents (including readers of the site), focusing on providing context for all the political maneuvering around town has been helpful. It’s easy enough to say things like “campaign finance is broken,” but without understanding what local campaign finance looks like, solving the problem seems impossible.

Sharing information from activist communities: There are certain people and organizations that can get an op-ed in the local daily paper tomorrow. The rest of us struggle to share information on that level, especially if it doesn’t follow a narrative that a big publication has already invested in. I’m not about to fool myself that PDX.Vote can match the reach of any of the well-established news sources around town, but I do think I’m already doing better at sharing information from some activist communities here.

Social media: Several articles (along with some social media-only posts) have gotten good traction, especially on Twitter.

What’s not working

Digests: Prior to the primary crunch, I published multiple digests per week. While keeping up with the day-to-day details of local politics has value, those posts received very little traffic. There’s just not enough readers interested in them for me to continue regularly creating digests. I may experiment with link round ups in the future, but for now, I’m going to prioritize the information that people seem to want.

Marketing: I know I said social media is going well, but I haven’t been able to spend much time promoting the site overall. I’m hoping that eliminating writing digests will help with that. I also don’t like relying on social media as a source of traffic. As tempting as it is to assume everyone is on social media and the various algorithms will get voters guides to the people who need them, I’m well aware that fewer than half of U.S. residents get their news from social media.

My mental health: I got pretty crunchy towards the end of the primary season. While I care a great deal about this project, I also need to take care of myself. I’m working to build more time into the publishing schedule, as well as looking at more ways to share the workload. I’m doing a lot better after my post-primary hiatus and I’ve already planned some time off after the general election, as well.

What’s next

For the most part, I’m going to continue focusing on what’s working. I’ve got a list of articles planned, such as looks at specific initiative petitions, diving into some of the budgets associated with local government, and a look at how the state’s voter pamphlets are produced.

Behind the scenes, I’m currently working on updating the massive spreadsheet I use to track candidates. I’m debating making part or all of this spreadsheet available to readers — among other things, I’m using it to keep tabs on media mentions and key backers. I’ll have to do a little clean up work first, though. This spreadsheet is the key to how I produce voters guides, because it lets me gather and compare information relatively easily.

I’m also looking at bringing in some help. While I expect that eliminating digests will reduce my workload, there are a couple of key issues that I need help with:

  • writer recruitment and communications
  • project managing for longer-term efforts (marketing, writing more of a voters’ guide in advance, etc.)
  • keeping me accountable and on track with the editorial calendar

While my budget is tight and still relies on my own funds far more than monthly revenue, I’m going to be looking for someone able to take on these tasks. I’m currently planning to start with somewhere between five and ten hours per month (based on what I can afford to pay, as well as the tasks I have in mind so far). I’ll be putting up a more formal request for applications in the future, though you’re welcome to contact me now if you think you’d be a good fit.

I need your support

Lastly, I need to ask for help more often. I’m terrible at asking for help but community media requires community support. Here are the best ways to help PDX.Vote.

Pay for a subscription

The easiest way to help me keep PDX.Vote up and running is by contributing financially. Capitalism requires me to pay for hosting, contributors, and even accessing news published by various media. I share a full list of expenses (as well as income) for transparency, so you can see that the income for the site to date is less than a fourth of what I’ve spent in running it.

I currently expect to run out of the budget I’ve set for this project around the general election, at which point I’ll be deciding whether to continue operating PDX.Vote in the future. Please consider supporting the site financially and make my decision easier.

Other ways to help

Share the site: I know a lot of folks need political information but aren’t in a position to contribute financially. That’s totally fine! But if you’re in that situation and find the information published here, please share the site with your community. Drop a link to an article in the church newsletter, the group chat, or an employer’s Slack.

Contribute to the site: Have a perspective on local politics you want to share or a topic you’re interested in researching or a comic you want to draw? Pitch me! My dream is to eventually have so many contributors that there’s barely room on the site for my pieces.

Help create the future of the site: The entire point of PDX.Vote is to help Portland residents participate in local politics. If there’s something that’s preventing you from getting involved, I’d like to hear it. That sort of information helps me plan what articles to publish, as well as run the site. Send me your thoughts, please!

By Thursday Bram

Thursday Bram founded PDX.Vote after making numerous zines, newsletters, and other media about politics in Portland, Oregon. Thursday has also written for publications ranging from Autostraddle.com to Entrepreneur Magazine. You can find more of Thursday's work at ThursdayBram.com.